Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Writer(s): Cullen Bunn, Eric Trautmann, Roy Thomas, Luke Lieberman, Gail Simone
Artist(s): Ivan Rodriguez, Rich Buckler, Rod Rodolfo, Kewbar Baal, Bilquis Evely, Jonathan Lau, Ivan Nunes, Marcio Menyz, Arison Aguiar
Release Date: 15th July, 2015
As a reader new to Red Sonja, it would be fair to say I’m not aware of the myriad of turns the character has taken since her inception in 1973. That being said, this one-shot issue celebrating the anniversary of this iconic character’s creation is a mixed bag. The issue features six separate stories by a variety of writers and artists, including Gail Simone, Roy Thomas and Luke Lieberman. Whilst all six stories universally agree that Sonja kicks ass (and this reviewer wouldn’t dare disagree), the effect of so many different interpretations of the character within the one issue can be quite jarring.
‘The Raiding Party’ and ‘For Whom the Bell Trolls’ don’t consist of much more than Sonja strutting her stuff. The colours are stark, befitting the tone the writers are attempting to achieve, but the sharp angles used by both artists are displeasing to look upon. Neither story offers much in terms of character development and in both, the narrative never achieves an even flow. The ‘Arena of Dread’ follows along a similar vein, with the focus this time on Sonja’s escape from an evil slave master, Lord Sadisto. Elements of the story, such as the shaving of the woman to make them ‘presentable’ for their master, are likely to leave a stale taste in some mouths.
However, there is a notable change of tact from ‘The Simple Life’. In perhaps the most compelling story of the issue, Luke Lieberman winds the clock back to explore the motives behind the character’s violent escapades. Here we find Sonja broken and alone, wandering through the frozen wilderness after the murder of her family. She is rescued from certain death by a family, who together help Sonja realise her purpose in life. Lieberman manages to bring a depth to the character that is a welcome change of pace and proves she can be more than simply a sword-wielding set of boobs.
‘The Hanging Tree’ features a more barbaric Sonja, helped along by the copious amounts of ale she’s probably consumed before we join the character in a ‘civilised’ inn. The story sees Sonja accused of murder and follows her wily escape from the hangman’s noose. Whilst I didn’t enjoy Simone’s portrayal of Sonja in this particular story, I can’t help but be won over by how much fun I had reading it. The only thing better than a ferocious Sonja in action, is an intelligent Sonja elegantly outwitting her opponents.
Finally, whilst ‘Silent Running’ consists of no more than a series of panels of Sonja fighting her way through a variety of enemies and terrains, the artwork by Jonathon Lau is simply stunning. It is enjoyable for what it is, if you’re willing to get over the distinct lack of storyline.
Overall, Red Sonja #1973 is well worth a read. There’s enough gory violence to keep most entertained, but also plenty there for those looking for something ‘more’ from the character to chew on. Be warned, combating the misogyny of men is a constant theme throughout the issue; some could argue it presents an almost unfair stereotype of men when taken as a whole. Whilst I won’t argue that it’s an important issue worth tackling, it’s just a shame that the writers don’t see the irony in having Sonja do so whilst continuing to parade around in a steel bikini.
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The writer of this piece was: Claire Stevenson
Claire Tweets from @cookie_raider.